The city of Murray should now be smoke-free. The City Council passed an ordinance Thursday night that prohibits smoking in all enclosed public spaces and places of employment within city limits.
Local restaurant owners voiced their opposition at the meeting, asking the council for an exclusion for bars and restaurants that allow smoking. Owner of The Big Apple Cafe Ron Gladden argued that the ordinance is over reaching.
“Citizens of Murray and Calloway County essentially vote everyday where they choose to eat, if they believe The Big Apple poses a health concern, they choose not to eat there,” Gladden said. “They choose one of the 62 non-smoking restaurants in town to eat at.”
Tap 216 owner Robin Floyd said he doesn’t oppose “appropriate control” of smoking in the city.
“If you ban smoking within 15-feet of any door it will have a profound negative impact on restaurants like mine,” Floyd said. “It’s not that I think smoking is a good thing --I don’t. But, I would like you to consider an opt-out provision for restaurants like mine and The Big Apple, that already have an area constructed specifically to let people smoke without infringing on the rights of people who don’t smoke.”
The ordinance prohibits smoking in parking lots and areas within 15 feet of entrances, windows and ventilation systems; in restaurants and bars, there must be a 15-foot buffer between outdoor seating and serving areas.
The same distance applies for numerous outdoor areas including playgrounds and public events. It also applies to the outdoor common areas of apartment buildings, retirement facilities, trailer parks and other such residential areas and any designated smoking area in these place must not exceed 25% of the total outdoor common area.
In response to the concerns of restaurant and bar owners, council members Linda Cherry and Wesley Bolin both cited a University of Kentucky study used to draft the ordinance. The study states that cities that had passed similar smoking bans did not show a decline in business for restaurants.
Councilman Burton Young asked Murray-Calloway County Hospital CEO Jerry Penner and Murray State Director of Governmental Relations Jordan Smith to speak on the experiences both institutions have had since restricting smoking on their campuses.
Both Penner and Smith said they have seen positive outcomes since imposing the restrictions. Implementing a no smoking policy was one of the first things Penner said he did when became CEO of the hospital in 2011. Murray State implemented a smoking ban on campus since 2015.
“I certainly understand the concern [...because of ] the challenges that we had to deal with at the hospital. I think if we’re truly going to have a health consortium, we need to open from the standpoint of why we are a healthy community,” Penner said. “Not taking away from anybody’s livelihood, but your argument falls on very deaf ears when you’re talking to someone in the healthcare field, because of what we deal with every single day.”
Smith echoed Penner’s sentiments, adding that several employees at Murray State have quit smoking since the ban was put in place.
“Our Human Resources Director said that we had many employees who were lifelong smokers complete a tobacco cessation program,” Smith said. “She still gets emails from faculty and staff thanking her and HR for offering these services, because they helped people stop smoking.”
There was hesitation from some council members, including Jane Shoemaker. She voted ‘no’ on the ordinance and explained her decision, saying the choice to be smoking or nonsmoking should be left up to businesses.
Young, also voted ‘no,’ and voiced concern about the ticketing process for not complying with the law.
An individual in violation of the ordinance is subject to a $50 fine for the first offense, $100 for the second and $150 for each additional violation. Fines for businesses are similar $100, $200 and $500. The increases are within one-year intervals.
Young said he believes the ordinance will be hard to enforce.
Councilmembers Robert Billings Jr. and Pat Scott also voiced hesitations but voted ‘yes.’ Both said they would like to see the ordinance amended in the future to "find more common ground" with business owners and to possibly exclude outside designated smoking areas.
Mayor Jack Rose said he was open to making amendments to the ordinance in future meetings. He gave an example of giving a business more time to comply with the ban.
The ordinance passed 8-2. Councilmembers Jason Pittman and Dan Miller were not present for the vote
The ordinance takes effect September 12, 2018.